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Black History

Verniecia Green-Jordan Builds Family/Perris Legacy

PRECINCT REPORTER GROUP NEWS — From the far reaches of the antebellum south where Afro-Appalachian descendants fought through slavery, reconstruction and Jim Crowism to keep hundreds of acres of land in the family is the lore that legacies are made of.

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By Dianne Anderson

From the far reaches of the antebellum south where Afro-Appalachian descendants fought through slavery, reconstruction and Jim Crowism to keep hundreds of acres of land in the family is the lore that legacies are made of.

Over the weekend, Virniecia Green-Jordan celebrated her rich beginnings of “Zeketown,” and well beyond its borders where everybody knows their name.

“Part of it is genes, and attitude,” said Green-Jordan. “I come from a family, especially the Coe’s. The Coe Colonies, Coe Ridge –  that’s half of my genes right there.”

Her “Fulfillment of a legacy” event celebrated some of the most influential people in her life. Her strength starts with great great great grandfather, Ezekiel, who bought over 300 acres of land after abolition, as well as her inspiration and friend, the late great Clarence Muse.

She feels that he never really got his due.

“Clarence did a lot. I knew him personally, and he was a lawyer. That’s what they didn’t like about him in Perris,” she said. “The good ole’ boys don’t have that kind of background. They don’t understand how [he could] withstand some things.”

Much of the event highlighted her own well-documented family journey that began in the Hills of southeast Kentucky through generations of fight, sometimes won by gun.  Keeping family together through the ravages of slavery was the motivation, and her great great great grandparents were determined to hang on to family land.

“The fight was daily. What happened on the ridge [is that] my direct line were the leaders,” she said. “They [whites] were definitely trying to get us to leave.”

To this day, she and the family still catch up at annual reunions. She knows their story holds special relevant lessons for this generation.

“We just got two landmarks, our cemeteries are over 150 years old in Kentucky,” she said. “We have people used to defending their property. I come from that background. I’m going to defend and develop my land. That’s mamma’s side.”

Over time, some land on her father’s Mississippi side was bought by slaves, but lost mostly due to the color line. Her grandfather was an educator, a mathematician, and a preacher. Her mother and cousins could pass for white, but her grandfather was dark skinned, which also made him a target.

“They did all they could against him because she died, and we lost the property in Mississippi over my cousins,” she said.

Through the years, she has returned time and again back to the old landmarks, both physically and emotionally, to strengthen her own local fight.

Green-Jordan was the first African American elected in Perris in 1985, and is still seated on the Perris school board. To her knowledge, she is the longest-serving elected African American school board member in the Inland Empire.

Coming in over three decades ago held its share of challenges. Riverside County has always been more conservative than San Bernardino County.

As a child and teen, she lived through major civil rights era riots, including Detroit and Watts. Her family bought 2.5 acres in 1959 in Perris, where she came to live in 1968.

But she and her brother faced local education discrimination on a few different fronts.

Both were at the top of their class, and her brother was an exceptionally high achiever, yet Black students back then didn’t have access to scholarships. He attended UCR as a physics major, and holds a master’s degree in astrophysics.

He also worked in the space sector, but at Perris High School, he received no accolades.

“They were not very nice to us in high school when we moved out here. They gave us no scholarships,” she said. “Scholarships and name recognition at Perris were only for white students.”

Despite the fight that continued all the way to Perris, there is a sense of pride in the bloodline that comes from being the great great great granddaughter of Ezekiel and Patsy Coe.

On her mother’s side, three books are written about the “infamous” Coe Family, whom she calls the “true feuders.” Since her parents bought land in Perris, they also continued to make their local mark, having held an instrumental role in bringing lights, roads and electricity to the dark parts of town.

“It’s the fact that we don’t get our history documented as a people. We have done a lot –  the streets, the lights and the roads, and Mead Valley. Those areas were done by African Americans,” she said.

For nearly three decades, she has also committed to honor the memory of Dr. Clarence Muse through arts programming offered with Perris Valley Arts & Activities Committee. The project was founded by Muse and wife Ena in 1963 under the auspices of the Perris Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Muse was multi-talented, encompassing several areas of arts and entertainment, including songwriting, playwright, and as a Broadway show director. He was featured or performed in over 200 films starting in 1929, including Porgy and Bess, Buck and the Preacher, and Carwash.

He died in Perris fifty years later, leaving behind an indelible impression for the local creative community to carry forward.

“Our story has not been told. Clarence Muse when he lived, he would say that the stories Black people have are real drama. We had to live through that,” she said.

Over the years, Green-Jordan, who holds two masters degrees, is also the recipient of numerous awards and recognition for her work to strengthen the community.

Green-Jordan founded, or has been involved in numerous community-based programs and projects, including UCR Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Corona-Norco Teachers Association Special Education Committee, Willie May Taylor National Council of Negro Women, Perris NAACP Chapter, and Perris Valley African American History Month Committee. Among many other commitments, she also served as Coalition of Black School Board Members Vice President and the Activities Committee, Executive Director.

Much of what drives her passion for the future comes from the past.

“That’s why I called it ‘Fulfillment of Legacy’ because it goes back to slavery. It has been ingrained,” she said. “I was raised to give back and to develop the community.”

For more information, see https://www.pvaac.com/

This article originally appeared in the Precinct Reporter Group News.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Pay Attention — Roe v. Wade and the Far Right’s Extreme Plans

For the most part, the judges who are letting states eliminate access to abortion are the same judges letting states limit voters’ access to the ballot box. They’re the same judges who restrict the government’s ability to regulate harmful corporate behavior. Many of them are the same judges who tried to deny millions of Americans access to health care provided by the Affordable Care Act. 

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Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

By Ben Jealous

Things are about to get worse for millions of vulnerable people in our country.

It looks like the far right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is getting ready to reverse Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old ruling that recognized a pregnant person’s right to have an abortion. Abortion is legal today, but pretty soon that will no longer be the case in most of the country.

A leaked draft of a Supreme Court ruling expected to be released in June indicates that the Court will rule that there is no constitutional protection for abortion. Bans will go into effect in many states immediately, and others will follow soon. That will leave millions of women and LGBTQ people — and their spouses and partners — less free and less in control of their own health, lives, and families.

Like many laws and policy decisions handed down from on high, the harm will fall hardest on those with the fewest resources and political power — people of color and low-income people. It is hard to take.

How did this happen?

In the long term, it happened because opponents on the right to choose spent decades building a movement to make it happen. They invested time and money to elect like-minded politicians. They pushed Republican presidents to fill federal courts with judges who were willing, if not eager, to restrict or ban legal access to abortion. They made it a top priority when deciding whether and how to vote.

In the short term, it happened because Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. To energize the Republican Party’s ideological base, Trump promised them judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade. They took the deal Trump offered. They turned out to vote. And with help from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Trump gave them kind of judges they wanted.

And now that they have the power to impose their will, Americans’ freedom will shrink and American families will suffer.

In fact, many are already suffering. Anti-choice activists have harassed and sometimes killed abortion providers. Judges have been letting state legislators pile on more and more restrictions on abortion care. As a result, in some states, the right to abortion care may exist in theory, but in reality, it is virtually nonexistent, because clinics and providers have disappeared.

There are hard times and hard decisions ahead.

There are also lessons to be learned and acted on.

One important lesson is that the Supreme Court has a big impact on our lives, even though most of us don’t think about it in the day to day. We should all pay more attention.

We should pay attention when the far right tells us what they plan to do with their political power. They have been loud and clear about their intent to overturn Roe v. Wade.

But many Americans refused to believe that the threat to Roe v. Wade was real. They just could not imagine a 21st century America in which women and doctors are treated like criminals for seeking or providing abortion care.

We no longer need to imagine that kind of scenario. We’re about to live it.

And that’s why we also have to pay attention to the consequences of our voting behavior.

For the most part, the judges who are letting states eliminate access to abortion are the same judges letting states limit voters’ access to the ballot box. They’re the same judges who restrict the government’s ability to regulate harmful corporate behavior. Many of them are the same judges who tried to deny millions of Americans access to health care provided by the Affordable Care Act.

The Supreme Court justices and other federal judges who are put in place by the president and U.S. Senate have jobs for life. That means we are stuck with Trump’s judges for many years to come. And that means we all need to think long and hard about who we vote for — and about ever passing up the opportunity to vote.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in December 2022.

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Bay Area

Bishop Bob Jackson Celebrates 38 Years at Acts Full

On May 5, Rev. W.R., “Smokie” Norful Jr. preached the sermon. Norful is an American gospel singer and pianist, best known for his 2002 album, “I Need You Now” and “Nothing Without You,” which won a Grammy at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 2004.

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Bishop Bob Jackson, First Lady Barbara Jackson, Rev. Smokie Norful, Gospel recording artist, and Cathy D. Adams, president and CEO of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce.
Bishop Bob Jackson, First Lady Barbara Jackson, Rev. Smokie Norful, Gospel recording artist, and Cathy D. Adams, president and CEO of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce.

From May 4-6, 2022, hundreds of well-wishers came to celebrate with the senior pastor of Acts-Full Gospel Church of God in Christ, Bishop Robert (Bob) L. Jackson, as he marked 38 years of service. On May 5, Rev. W.R., “Smokie” Norful Jr. preached the sermon. Norful is an American gospel singer and pianist, best known for his 2002 album, “I Need You Now” and “Nothing Without You,” which won a Grammy at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 2004. Norful received his second Grammy in 2015 at the 57th Annual Grammy awards for his song “No Greater Love,” 10 years after winning his first.

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Black History

Karine Jean-Pierre Makes History as 1st Black Woman, Openly LGBTQ White House Press Secretary

“Karine not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people,” Biden said in a written statement. “Jill and I have known and respected Karine a long time and she will be a strong voice speaking for me and this Administration.”

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Karine Jean-Pierre. 
Karine Jean-Pierre. 

By Brandon Patterson

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre will make history this May 13 when she assumes the role of White House press secretary, becoming the first Black and first openly LGBTQ person to hold the position.

President Biden announced last week that he was appointing Jean-Pierre to the role as current press secretary, Jen Psaki, departs to assume a media role at MSNBC. Jean-Pierre currently serves as principal deputy press secretary.

“Karine not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people,” Biden said in a written statement. “Jill and I have known and respected Karine a long time and she will be a strong voice speaking for me and this Administration.”

“I am still processing it because, as Jen said…this is a historic moment and it’s not lost on me,” Jean-Pierre said during the White House press conference last week when the announcement was made. “I understand how important it is for so many people out there. So many different communities that I stand on their shoulders.”

She continued: “It is an honor and a privilege to be behind this podium.”

Jean-Pierre was born in Martinique to Haitian parents and migrated to the United States with her family as a child, according to NBC News. She grew up in Queens, New York.

She got her start in politics as an activist, and later as a political commentator for MSNBC. She was chief public affairs officer at MoveOn.org — a website that allows people to circulate petitions for progressive causes online — and worked on the Reproductive Freedom Initiative campaign at the ACLU.

Pierre later served on the presidential campaigns for former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley. She was also senior adviser for the Biden campaign and chief of staff for Kamala Harris’ 2020 campaign run.

Jean-Pierre made history last summer when she became only the second Black woman to deliver a White House press briefing — and the first in 30 years. Judy Smith, who served as a White House spokesperson for President George H.W. Bush, beginning in 1991, was the first Black woman to deliver a briefing, according to People Magazine. She was also the inspiration for the character Olivia Pope in the TV show “Scandal,” the magazine reports.

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